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My Exile Begins

[Karma the Cat is today's guest author.]

Dear Fans,

I have been incarcerated in a strange place with many other prisoners-of-war, in a concentration camp refered to by the local yokels as the "Cat's Cradle" in San Rafael, California. The tale of my journey here is long and nerve-wracking, yet tell it I must, so that you may take pity on me and send me gifts.

My story begins in Browns Bay, New Zealand, several days ago. My friends Colin & Lisa (with whom I normally deign to share my habitation) were going away to visit relatives and I declined to accompany them. As is usual when I dig my claws in like this, they have to send Me away to a holiday resort. (Somebody has to ensure that Bowl is Filled, after all.) This time however, instead of my usual excellent accommodation at Uncle Kevin's Top Cat Hotel (I have my own suite there), I was booked in for a restorative and theraputic few days at a local health resort, known as "Bay Vet". The physician there is very gentle with Me and I actually enjoy my regular checkup visits (although of course I don't let this on to anyone).

About 24 hours ago, however, Colin & Lisa came back, and I was abruptly taken from my luxury apartment and placed on the examination table. The vet checked me over and wrote a certificate or letter indicating my clean bill of health. I was very proud of this and shed extra fur everywhere so as to indicate my satisfaction. Despite my excellent behavour, the vet gave me a foul-tasting pill! I spat it out but he was too strong for me, and I had to swallow it. I hate pills. I hate vets too.

I fully expected to be put back into my palaquin and taken for the usual brief drive back up the hill to home, but instead, Colin & Lisa carried me out of the vet's car park and along the road into town! I kept asking plaintively where the car was, and could I be put down now thank you very much, but to no avail. They told me that they were sorry, but they didn't have a car any more, and it was just a short walk from the Vet to the Travel Agents where their luggage was being stored. Luggage? I started to get worried. This wasn't normal, and anything abnormal was Bad and Not To Be Trusted.

It was hot... the Personal Transport Pod they had put me in had a water bottle now, but I couldn't figure out how to operate it. Where was Bowl? The sun beat cruelly on my naked furry self, but never fear, my fans, I made sure that everyone heard my complaints.

Eventually, after many hours [More like 15min at the most - Ed.] we reached the Travel Agent. There were many people here. Trudy and Vinessa were there, and they have attended Me at home before, but there were others I did not recognise. Fortunately they made appropriate introductions ("Isn't he cute?"; "What a brave pussycat", "How is the little darling?", "Have you tranquilised him?". I'm not sure about that last one, I haven't heard that obsequiousness before.)

Before I had time to make a formal complaint, my Mobile Prison Cell was loaded into a station wagon along with all the suitcases, and Trudy, Vinessa, Colin, Lisa and I drove off in a strange direction. I tried to figure out what was curious about it, but I was strangely drowsy and kept needing to flop and rest up for a few moments. Had I perhaps been drugged? [How would we be able to tell? - Ed.]

By the time our horrible journey was over, I was feeling very light-headed and strange. I knew things were all wrong, but I didn't seem to care. I do remember that we all crowded up to this big counter, and suitcases were handed over and tagged and taken away on conveyor belts, and then Colin picked me up and took me round the back of the counter and through the door and down a corrider and then deposited me in a cage out the back with lots of other "outsize baggage". BAGGAGE? More like "outraged baggage"! Hmmph. I complained some more, but then had to take a nap.

When I woke up, it was dark, crowded, and there was a strange constant roaring everywhere. I was feeling very groggy and sick and I just had to poo in a corner of my room, and the whole room lurched several times and everything rolled over and I was tossed around in my little box more than once. I think I threw up once also. It was hell. My fur was a mess,and there just wasn't any room to groom properly. Why had bowl forsaken me?

I was almost dead when my box was taken from the place of nightmares by a big guy in overalls I'd never seen before. It turned out that we had been inside a big aeroplane all this time. I was placed at the side of a big room with more conveyor belts and all the suitcases again. Then I was left alone for hours. It seemed forever before Colin & Lisa collected me.

Later I pieced together what had happened to Colin and Lisa during this time. They had enjoyed an upgrade to business class seats, very enjoyable once they arranged a swap with someone else so that they could sit together. When they disembarked from the plane at Los Angeles, they skipped all the regular queues at customs and Colin presented his residence visa application to officials at the immigration office. They sat there for about half an hour waiting for their turn to come up, while they watched the room empty as all the normal travellers were processed and continued out to baggage claim. Eventually Colin was fingerprinted and his passport stamped with a temporary residence permit, and they rushed off to find Me (and their suitcases, of course). I was close to death and could only lie limply at the bottom of my box, not moving.

[Actually, he was screaming loudly and stank very strongly of... well, you know. We were assured by the animal handler expert at United that he was actually taken care of quite well, although indeed his box had rolled over at some point. He had cat crap smeared everywhere. He purred a lot when he saw us, so he can't have been too dead.-Ed.]

Lisa opened the top of my box and cleaned me up as best she could. (I have no idea what the word "diaper" means.) Then I was placed on top of their suitcases on a wheeled trolley and we all dashed off to get through customs and apparently catch a connecting flight. I was taken from the trolley and placed on a conveyor belt, which had taken me some distance away when it suddenly stopped moving and these big red lights started flashing and this alarm bell went off. At last! Someone had discovered that I, also, should have been travelling business class, and that this was just some horrible mistake. The big guy in overalls came along and took me back to the desk, where Lisa and Colin were yelling that I shouldn't be "loaded on to a cancelled flight". More tags were slapped on to my prison pod and I was put back on to the conveyor belt, and taken away to be placed in yet another room, to be left there forever apparently.

[As it turned out, this new flight - although technically scheduled for an earlier departure than our cancelled flight - had its arrival at LA delayed an hour and a half because San Francisco was fogged in. This was why the original flight was cancelled. So he must have waited a really long time before being loaded into the plane again. Meanwhile, we're freaking out because the Cats Cradle cattery was due to close at 5:00pm and it was already 2:30 when we left LA with an hour's flight ahead of us, baggage, cat and rental car to collect, and at least half an hour drive from SF to San Rafael. - Ed.]

After another uneventful flight [quite the seasoned traveller now, aren't we? -Ed.] I was collected at the outsize baggage desk and reunited with my luggage. Other travellers would come up to me and admire me before backing away as is customary. [Actually, they backed away when they realised how stinky he was. - Ed.] Colin and Lisa helped me take a shuttle bus from the airport terminal to the rental car terminal. I assisted the bus driver in navigation by loudly telling him where to get off.

Having instructed Lisa to prepare my conveyance, Colin attended me by placing Me at the top of the pile of luggage. We proceeded to the parking lot and loaded everything into the nice green vehicle. I have no idea what it was but it purred and it was much quieter that the aeroplanes. I fell asleep while the others navigated through the foggy San Francisco streets, over the Golden Gate bridge and northwards to... where the heck were we going, anyway?

It was much later than 5:00 when we arrived at the Cats Cradle luxury apartments [It was 6:10, and we'd stopped to phone ahead to make sure the nice man was still waiting for us, bless him] but when royalty is expected, concessions must be made - bribes help also. My new residence has split-level architecture, with a special shelf for flopping on. I was weighed, combed for fleas, and finally FED! After Bowl appeared, I don't know what happened after that. I suppose Colin and Lisa must have left, because much later I realised the lights were out and I had been sleeping for some time.

I will tell you more when more has happened. I hope breakfast is happening soon.

With a complete lack of kind regards,

- Karma the Cat